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Sayfildin Tahir Sharif appears in court in Edmonton on Jan. 20, 2011 in this artist's sketch. The lawyer for Sharif, a Canadian man suspected of supporting a terrorist group, says his client will fight extradition to the United States. (Amanda McRoberts/CP/Amanda McRoberts/CP)
Sayfildin Tahir Sharif appears in court in Edmonton on Jan. 20, 2011 in this artist's sketch. The lawyer for Sharif, a Canadian man suspected of supporting a terrorist group, says his client will fight extradition to the United States. (Amanda McRoberts/CP/Amanda McRoberts/CP)

Extradition case

Partner of alleged Canadian terrorist grapples with competing realities Add to ...

The case against Mr. Sharif is comprehensive, alleging he spent years using code words and a network of contacts to help co-ordinate at least two attacks as part of a terrorist cell that U.S. documents allege had loose connections to al-Qaeda. He allegedly helped four fighters, including the dump-truck driver, make plans and cross the border into Iraq.

Based on extensive wire taps, Americans allege Mr. Sharif spoke with “farmers,” meaning suicide bombers who “plant metal and harvest metal and flesh.” He allegedly reminded bombers to delete everything on their computers, wired $700 to a co-conspirator in Mosul, Iraq from Toronto, and urged his family to “donate to the brother farmers.” He allegedly told his sister in Iraq to “go learn about weapons and go attack the police and Americans. Let it be that you die.” He felt it a duty, U.S. officials charge, for every Muslim in Iraq to fight the American “invaders.”

Remaining in Canada will be an uphill battle, said Dennis Edney, an Edmonton-based lawyer who last year won the fight to block the extradition of his client Abdullah Khadr, Omar Khadr’s brother. “Many Charter challenges that would normally be available to the suspect in a Canadian criminal process are simply not available in the extradition process,” he said.

The Minister of Justice can refuse to extradite on several grounds, but that appears unlikely. Ottawa lawyers battled hard on Washington’s behalf to extradite the elder Mr. Khadr until the Supreme Court defeated the final motion two months ago – the only extradition for terrorism charges it has blocked since Sept. 11, 2001.

A spokesperson for the Canadian Justice Minister said the accused won’t face indefinite detention under the new law, known as the National Defence Authorization Act, because he was indicted before it took effect. Others says that’s not the case.

“I definitely think it’s unlikely, but it’s not impossible,” said Andrea Prasow, a Canadian working with Human Rights Watch in Washington. “… If the Defence Department then wanted to say, seize him on the courthouse steps, that’s something they could do. The judge wouldn’t play any role in that.”

Mr. Sharif will indeed face charges in civilian court, but “that’s not the issue,” Mr. Edney said. It’s the military’s role, enabled by the new law, that he sees as problematic.

“The Edmonton suspect has every reason to be concerned,” the veteran lawyer said, adding: “He will simply be outside the law, as a non-combatant under military care, no different than the Guantanamo detainees. He will simply remain in limbo locked away, awaiting trial on the extradition charges forever.”

The relationship

Cara Rain was an unlikely match for Mr. Sharif. She was Stoney and Cree, raised on a reserve west of Edmonton, but she fell for him, taking the name Aisha and beginning to wear a head scarf.

At an earlier bail hearing, much was made of the couple’s quarrels. When Mr. Sharif was arrested, his bags had been packed. Ms. Rain plays down all this now, saying the arguments often stemmed from misunderstandings – his English was limited.

“Despite all of our arguments, we always started our morning making each other coffee and making breakfast together, for each other,” she said.

Since his arrest, they’ve been stuck in a state of suspension. Ms. Rain has tried to avoid the public eye, but agreed to answer questions from The Globe because she fears no one is fighting for him. She puts his fate in the hands of her faith, but is frustrated by a legal system that could place Mr. Sharif at the whim of harsh American laws.

“I am thinking what a cruel game this has become,” Ms. Rain wrote, later adding: “It seems our people have already hung my love for something he hasn’t even done, and the system is already failing my love. … [He]has now been sitting there doing dead time for something he is ONLY accused of, and I used to be so proud of our judicial system, I used to think we as Canadians were so fair. Now, I am really not thinking so much of it, sadly.”

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